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Maccabees Update

The Maccabees Update is part of the Google strategy to boost the quality of webpages.

The Maccabees Update is part of a long tradition Google prefers to deny. The cat-and-mouse-game follows a certain dramaturgy: SEO Analysts observe ups and downs in rankings and assume a recent update of Google’s algorithm structure. Google itself appeases ups and downs and rejects any rumours of a recent update. This is how the relationship between Google and SEO Analysts has been for years. The reason for this is very simple: Both sides focus on the same (Search Engine Result Pages, also known as SERPS), but do so from different angles.

The dispute between Google and SEO Analysts

Google by now applies 1000 to 1500 updates on a yearly basis. Usually, this only causes minimal changes in SERPs. Since the application of the Hummingbird algorithm with its focus on a semantic and holistic search (between 2013 and 2015) Google particularly publishes smaller updates. The reason is quite obvious: Neither users nor most webmasters will get nervous. The tactic of applying smaller updates is Google’s reaction to its experiences with huge updates in former years (around 2015). Especially large penalty updates</strong< like Pinguin and Panda had massive impacts on the visibility of webpages and even crashed them causing the death of many smaller businesses.

SEO Analysts consider themselves to be the lawyers of webmasters. They have a strong interest in the methods websites use to rank. The predominent opinion with SEO experts is that they need to be the ones to know because Google holds back core information about this. Okay, there is the Google Webmaster Guidelines Paper. But even here you will only find very shallow rules about what webmasters should do or not. Google wriggles for an answer when it comes to what is essential for a page to be ranked. To find out nevertheless, SEO Analysts constantly trawl SERPs to find saliences. Doing so, they will ideally come to a conclusion which measures rank webpages successfully in the SERPs (and which not). We need to regard the Maccabees Update with this in mind.

A short history of the Maccabees Update

Tweets of Google team member Danny Sullivan about the Maccabees UpdateOn December 12th of 2017, SEO Analysts tracked noticeable ups and downs in SERPs.
Analysts monitored a loss of 20 to 30 percent, especially for organic traffic. The ups and downs were still trackable on December 13th and 14th. On his website Search Engine Roundtable, Barry Schwartz named the update “Maccabees” according to the Jewish Holidays of Chanukka being celebrated on those days. A short glimpse into the background of the name: The successful Maccabean Revolt, lasting from 167 to 160 B.C. enabled the ritual cleansing of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and established the place for Jewish worship. The Holidays of Chanukka celebrate this part of Jewish history.

Not before the 20th of December 2017 Google gave news about the update, appeasingly as usual. Google’s Search Engine Consultant Danny Sullivan rather announced “some usual changes due to routine”. He did not confirm an update which is why there is no official name for it.

The usual guessing game: What effects does the Maccabees Update have?

With Google denying the existence of a new update (again) the SEO Community was left with riddles (again) about what the update might be about. Roger Montti outlined the most frequent presumptions on Searchenginejournal:

    • Thesis 1: The Maccabees Update is part of the Mobile First Strategy. The thesis was discarded very soon when it was discovered that also pages which have already been optimized for mobile devices dropped in rankings.
    • Thesis 2: Maccabees affected the visibility on desktop searches in a higher rate than on mobile devices . A very interesting thesis, but discarded too according to a significant lack of evidence.
    • Thesis 3: It is a seasonal update connected with the upcoming Christmas time. The thesis was tempting but could not answer the question what this exactly intended. So this track was closed very soon too.
    • Thesis 4: The update has something to do with links. This is a classic when talking about Google’s updates. There are a lot of good examples to prove this thesis with Google proceeding against aggressive link strategies by now. Still, it does not fit in the bigger picture of all abnormalities of the Maccabees Update combined.

Finally a trace: The Maccabees Update is a member of the Fred’s Update Family

Name giver Barry Schwartz concluded from his analysis that Maccabees shows

      • typical symptons of the Fred Update.
      • a very noticeable pattern according to which pages are affected that only exist to vary keywords.

Symptoms of Fred

Fred was never officially confirmed by Google. In March 2017 SEO Analysts worldwide were occupied finding out what the update was about. Soon it was clear that especially websites which only served the purpose of earning money (through an overload of ads or affiliate links) had been punished. Characteristic features of those pages are

      • to contain content that is old, inferior, or simply too poor to serve the user’s search intent.
      • to overwhelmingly display ads.
      • to not offer other services than paid affiliate links to other shops.

Since the first rollout in March 2017 SEO-Analysts could track several smaller follow-ups of the Fred Update. As webpages with very few relevant content fell victim to the update it is widely considered to be a Quality Update. The Maccabees Update can be queued with this category.

No landingpages with keyword variants, please!

One of the favorite SEO strategies so far is building singular landingpages for keyword variants. With the Maccabees Update Google obviously put a stop to this strategy. The idea behind this strategy is spammy indeed: SEOs not only want to rank with one keyword but also with all its variants.

Here is an example: A craftsman wants to have his service listed with Google. He offers this service not only in Cologne but also in several different other German cities like Hannover, Frankfurt, or Berlin. Therefore he builds subpages for each city with the pattern:

Keyword= SERVICE + Keyword-Variant= NAME OF CITY.

The service is the exact same in every city, so the page’s content only varies in the name of the city. As Google attempts to take the view of the user and aims to deliver relevant search results, the strategy for landingpages with keyword variants is unnecessary and even annoying.

According to Google, only search results matching the search intent should be displayed to users. Therefore it is perfectly appropriate to explain the SERVICE once, but really good and with only as many words as necessary. Explaining the SERVICE again and again on different subpages creates a confusion for Google: Which page should rank in SERPs? The Maccabees Update has an answer to that: NONE.

How to handle keyword variants

Mid- and Long-Tail keywords will get more and more interesting for SEO competition. Voice Search with tools like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri is the reason for this. In oral form words tend to be longer. Webmasters who incorporate this major change will have the best chances to dominate rankings in the future. Still, not every single Mid-Tail oder Long-Tail keyword needs to be featured on separate subpages.

The better strategy would be to think around a topic. Connected to the example, this means to write one page for the SERVICE and mention the cities the SERVICE is also available.

It still can be appropriate to produce several different landingpages if the services vary from city to city in a way that service variation is really given. This can be also applied for products or product categories. The basic information for users is already given with explaining the product adequately on just one page. It is not necessary to copy the text for several different target groups with the intention to serve the keyword PRODUCT + TARGET GROUP.

Dominic Woodman presented an analysis on MOZ which comes to a very similar conclusion. He not only limits the effects of the update for pages that only use keyword variations to rank. He also sees an impact on pages dealing with a topic that has been widely covered with another article. Woodmann is not taking a counter position to Schwartz, but extends his thesis with another aspect.

Conclusion: The Maccabees Update perfectly goes along with Google’s strategy of the past years

The main attempt of this strategy is to rank pages higher that contain relevant content for search queries. At the same time other pages that obviously only want to attract user’s attention with keyword tactics are pushed to the bottom. When your texts succeed in describing your services and products well and also manage to answer customer’s questions you do not need to worry about the Maccabees Update. Even better, you do not need to worry about upcoming Quality Updates, because you are obviously already on the right track.

Mobile Speed turns into a ranking factor

Mobile Speeds becomes a Ranking Factor

Google turns its focus more consistently on the needs of mobile use: The page speed on mobile devices is now officially considered to be a ranking factor too. Google announced the news on its Webmaster Central Blog. The Speed Update will be rolled out in July 2018. This means for pages with a high mobile loading speed to be ranked better than the ones with a low one.

Mobile Speed turns into a ranking factor

My Google rankings dropped

Ausweg aus dem Dunkel: Was tun bei Rankingverlusten einer Website?

Not every person who looks after a website is necessarily a SEO expert, too. And there are still those who think, webmastering can be done along the way. Nevertheless, when rankings drop and page views go down drastically, you have to act. Even if everyone is running around like headless chickens, it’s better to keep calm and try to get the picture of what happened. The seo-nerd will tell you how to wield such emergencies.

My Google rankings dropped

An Update called Fred

Google Update gegen zu viel Werbung above the fold.

Since the beginning of March 2017 Google keeps sending shockwaves through the world of SEO. Websites with a large number of ads and little content suffered severe losses. The attack seemed to focus on commercial websites.

Rankings dropped over night and dozens of SERPs were lost for many, though there have been a few lucky winners who considerably improved their position reaching high rankings without optimizing a single thing on their website. This kind of SERP fluctuation broadly hints at Google adjusting another significant lever in their update strategy.

An Update called Fred

Micro-Moments – Mobile opens new touch points for brands

New touch points through mobile users

With the term Micro-Moments, Google tries to subsume the behavior of consumers changed by mobile devices. In more and more life situations, the web is only one click away. The constant availability of the Internet is far more than just an additional, nice feature that we owe to smartphones, tablets or laptops. Mobile, on the other hand, adds an additional dimension that must be understood to meet the mobile surfing behavior of people: the moment.

This applies especially to search queries. For a long time Google has included the intention of a search query before it makes link offers on the search results page.

Micro-Moments – Mobile opens new touch points for brands

SEO is dead. Long life SEO!

SEO is dead? There’s life in the old dog yet!

Mark Twain, Morgan Freeman and even Queen Elizabeth II share the same fate: false death notes, that threw the public into a dither.

Exactly the same SEO had to acquiesce for years. „SEO is dead“ can be read from time to time. But just like presumed dead stars, the search engine optimization returns with glory again and again.

SEO is dead. Long life SEO!

SEO Tips 2017

In 2017 the SEO pack will bei reshuffled. Looking at the SEO trends 2017 tension is guaranteed in the new year. There is much evidence that Google will lose its position as a sole gatekeeper in the web search. Curiously enough, that’s not only because of the search engine itself. In 2017 Google should again be better in serving the search intention of users with relevant search results. However, what currently changes rapidly is the framework of the search business Google dominated so far.

SEO Tips 2017

Mobile First indexing

Google backs on Mobile First. It’s all over town for long. That was an accident waiting to happen! Instead of looking at the desktop version of a page like so far, Google decides on the basis of the mobile version whether and on which place a website is displayed on the search results page (SERP).

This was finally announced by Google. The step is justified by the simple fact that meanwhile more search queries are entered via mobile devices than on desktop computers.

Mobile First indexing

Google Penguin 4.0

Penguin is an algorithm which identifies web spam, especially unnatural Backlinks. With the update first published in 2012 combats riggings that tend push pages in the ranking although they do not justify a high ranking in terms of content or technology. Before Penguin it was indeed a good strategy to buy links. On link farms, these positive rankings could be breed exclusively for their own website, so to speak, and then released into the digital world. In this time, Google rated websites according to how often other sites linked to this website.

Google Penguin 4.0

Semantic-holistic Google Search

When Google renewed its algorithm with Hummingbird end of 2013 to make a semantic-holistic search possible soon, the concern started a revolution in search engine optimisation as well which hasn’t finished yet. The core of this revolution is a paradigm shift. Before Hummingbird Google was satisfied by giving recommendations for sites upon search requests that were recommended by other sites – this was the principle of backlinks and the meaning of PageRanks.

Semantic-holistic Google Search